Minimalism, a rebuttal


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamMinimalism is to me the epitome of this idea-less, loveless, lifeless society. Replace a life with an empty space. Decluttering is one thing; removing all aesthetics and life values is another.

What, nothing matters? No keepsakes, no beautiful things? Exactly what I’d expect from this rathole of a pseudo-civilization; a barren wasteland, with a brand name and a smug little rationale. Minimalism is the sort of aesthetic you’d expect from an underachieving termite.

What minimalism is and isn’t

Listen, phonebrains, while I explain a few things:

Minimalism is called “living with less”. That’s a death sentence if ever there was. Already living in overpriced antique pigeon coops, you want less?  Remember doing more with less, that farcical fraud foisted on business? Remember how it meant doing a lot more with a lot less and achieving nothing but stress?

This is a simulation of the known universe. Minimalism? None.

The universe. Minimalism? None. This single picture has more meaning than any empty damn barn will ever have. You wouldn’t be allowed to put it on your wall, because it’s not a minimalist value.

Minimalism means by definition fewer aesthetics. Can you exist without a likeable environment? Would you want to? Because that’s what this “interior desertification” means. How at home do you feel in a barren space like an airport? Do you go to a “nice” pub, with a friendly environment, or some damn laminated hell with nothing but lifeless spaces?

Minimalism means life without art. Ignore a few thousand years of aesthetics, why don’t you? You could be as pig-ignorant as anyone you’ve ever despised. “Well, how long can you look at the same painting?”, you ask? Answer; decades, if you know a damn thing about how to look at a painting. You’ll always see textures, colour combinations, etc. The painting will reflect differently with different moods, emotions, etc., too.

The lifestyle aspect of minimalism is one of its few valid features; it reflects a nothing of a lifestyle. Emptiness, not humanity, not even personality. The irony of using natural materials in “minimalist” environments is that you might as well be back in the caves, where you presumably belong, not living as some sort of allegedly advanced, evolved being.

To me, minimalism is subhuman. It’s a monument to nihilism, that great philosophical cop-out of humanity, in which everything is considered meaningless. It’s as pitiful as “prove existence” for first year philosophy hacks. How spiritually gutless can you get? Minimalism, like nihilism, means you have no skin in the game of being yourself. You can’t win, but you can’t lose, either, with no commitments. You can’t even play the game. That’s minimalism; a void in to which you can escape. You can have it; just don’t ask me to do anything with it but bury it.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books


Art appreciation for morons



Wasp2Host: Welcome to the Celebration of Minimalism. We’d like you to fawn, gush, drip slightly, and perhaps even stand on two legs at our latest selections. We’ll show you what art appreciation is all about.

Imagine the minimal version of a Monet. Two dots in a pristine white canvas. How deeply poignant and moving it would be. Beethoven’s Sixth, without all that noise. The Sistine Chapel, with some dignity. This is the New Culture, the spiritual version of enchanting emptiness.

No, we don’t have any paintings or sculptures. We’re really minimal. We have instead Fred, a local building-nuzzler and fortunately portable cultural icon. Fred’s not allowed in to buildings in this city any more, so we’re having our show here in this wonderful car park off ramp.

Say hello, Fred.

“Fresno intersection”.

Close enough.

…But enough of this artistic banter. Now let’s move on tepidly to the real meat of our celebration; the famous Larry. Larry can hold eight hour monologues in confined spaces, preferably as small as possible. All that breathing just gets in the way, doesn’t it? Larry’s contribution to art appreciation is based on his work as a critic and occasional sales-thing for various major corporations.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Larry.

“It was when I was six that I discovered my hatred of all life. I loathed interesting things. Why have beauty when you can have maniacal, obsessive boredom? Why have love, when you can have empty plates and empty minds? So, naturally, I decided to become an art critic.”

Strange how evolution works, isn’t it?

“I don’t know. I’m not a subscriber.”

Do go on.

Job page 21“Here, ladies and gentlemen and other great losses to entomology, you see pristine art. This is real culture; the frenzied mentality of the driver on the off ramp. The endearingly vacuous expression on the alleged face. The mystic cowering of ramp users. That’s art.”

(Larry pauses to scratch face; continues)

“I first discovered art appreciation as a salesman for Roombas. Yes, all those days ago, I wrote my seminal work, the Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24. I’d like to read you an excerpt from my piece on this delicious appliance….?”

(Enthusiastic whimperings from crowd)

“Thank you. It’s a template for my later work in teaching art appreciation and formal art criticism. I blush to say that it’s even been compared to some online direct marketing copy.”

(Picks up brochure, smiles and begins to read.)

“The sheer ferocity and unbridled passion of the Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24 can be compared to Wagner, Liszt and certain anonymous, discreet decors in New Jersey. In unknown places, covens of fans gather to watch their mighty role model as it whisks through grime and grit to expose pure lino. They shudder in ecstasy as it symbolically collides with family members, and other liabilities.

The creative process coverOne day, a savant called Sniffles McClownvomit decided to try an experiment. What if the Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24 could be persuaded to deliver colored fluids all over the house? Using a Ouija board and a madman’s palette of lawyers, Sniffles fitted acrylic paint dispensers to the Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24.

The result was what’s now called Instant Expressionism. Expressionism, as you know, is to art what enemas are to ballet – Possibly useful, but not in public.

Sniffles soon discovered that there was a problem with his idea – The Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24 ran out of paint, or clogged, or tried to commit suicide. The result, however, was interesting – Little or no paint.

Yes, friends and other debtors, it was Minimalism!…”

(Pauses as person faints in delirious crowd explosion of enthusiastic whining.)

“…Control yourselves, please… Well, OK, don’t…And here we have a spot of paint, actually supplied by the Roomba Super Destruct Slam Dunk 24!”

(Cheers, stamping of feet, and sound of adenoidal-overachieving person asking to have his baby or some other souvenir.)

The police were called and responded with cheerful arrests of all involved. Now that’s art appreciation. Go out and buy some, right now, and cower along with the other intellectual bedpans.


LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI

Why art and pomposity don’t mix


Wasp2I was looking at the term “outsider art” today with the natural cynicism of a person with two professional artists in the family. Apparently “outsider art” includes a large amount of ideas and content lifted from the art of the early and mid-20th century. To put it another way, just more recycling by people with no actual ideas, as usual.

The exact description of outsider art is “…a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outside of the established art scene, such as psychiatric hospital patients and children.”

Historically, as well as literally, outside the boundaries of official culture also invariably means decades out of date. Presumably, having been institutionalized, one may be considered “one of us” by that select group of cretins who’ve been holding back the creative arts for centuries.

The creative process coverInsider art, by contrast, usually has the warm spiritual glow of a supermarket and much higher prices. This is The Elite at work, and a sorry spectacle it usually is. I’ve actually seen quite good brush artists using rollers.

If art is expression, and new art is new expression, it may be safely assumed that being taught how to express is dangerous, probably fatal, to real creativity on any level. Apparently the mentally ill are more creative, or at least different, than those who aren’t, according to some theories.

The search for outsider art on Google produces a blaze of predictable stuff. If you’ve never actually used a brush, it seems eclectic. If you have, you can see a few issues with the levels of flow and spend quite a lot of time wondering if the artists even saw the flow of the paint. How paint behaves is a real journey of discovery, if you can be bothered to pay attention.

Subjects vary from a seeming fascination with the hideous to a fascination with acceptance. “It looks like…” has never been a recommendation for anything. How can there be an institutionalized way of expressing something individual, to start with? “Looks like” can’t be purely individual.

Meanwhile, a small but interesting gem emerged in this turgid search among the pompous and the pointless. This painting is credited by one site to Stephanie Louis, but it looks nothing like any of her other work.

Outsider artThe only site which has it is considered a risk by Firefox, so I won’t give the link, but check it out:

This is no trivial piece of work. If it was in gold leaf, it would be called ultra-rococo. If it had received any attention, it would be called great, even by the institutionalized morons. It’s no mere visual M&M, either. It’s a collage, with paint and considerable depth. It takes a while to really see it. If this person is mentally ill, most other painters are mentally dead. Forest floors, let alone artists, could take lessons from it.

… And how did I find it? By looking through the morass of outsider art, and finding the “mentally ill section” as though it was the canned soup section. It wasn’t on special, and there were no promos. Enough people liked it to put a total of about four pictures of it online, this one here being the fifth.

Job page 12How did art suddenly get so pompous? For a medium which developed on the walls of caves, this claim to superior status is pretty parlous, as well as annoying. I see no difference between the animals who talk about splashes of color and the infinitely patronizing “we” who define art by murdering it with descriptions.

A real institution would have encouraged the painter of this little yellow gem, and the idea would have blossomed in to a virtual garden of paintings. No such luck with the ideologically fossilized, of course.

This is the logic of artistic fossilization as applied to this painting:

The painter must have been mentally ill, because the painting technique is so different. We don’t teach people to paint like that. (Why not?)

Good, nice painters use the bloodsucking, bitchy global art racket to sell their paintings. (Thank god for eBay!)

No dogmatic, senile bastard has sponsored it, so it’s not insider art. (How awful.)

My questions –

Which would you rather hang on your wall, the little yellow painting or the sort of duly approved bit of mundane visual dung which is so inescapable in art galleries and museums? Which is more artistic and expressive?

Did ponderous, pretentious pomposity pay any role in your decision regarding what art you’d prefer to live with?

Did the “mental illness” angle enter in to your thinking?

Point made.

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI

Unfamiliar art


Flying Wedgewood, third attempt rotatedThis piece was originally published on the old blog. The idea is to deal with finding the unfamiliar. Human beings tend to attribute familiar forms to shapes which are quite different, like clouds. The idea here is to reverse that process, and recognize the unfamiliar, rather than “editing” it.

In the typical banal modern environment, it’s not really all that easy to think of visual media as a form of exploration. Acclimatized shapes, familiar objects; it’s a shopping list of the mundane. Now – What if every shape you saw was completely unfamiliar? What if you didn’t have names, uses, and straightforward applications for what you see?

You will probably have noticed that when you’re in a natural environment, a different set of priorities kicks in. You react to the total environment, and instinctive awareness suddenly wakes up and starts paying attention. You may even get flashes of childhood taking careful steps in unfamiliar terrain.

I do a lot of painting when I get off my butt, and I love the way paint works. I love the dynamics of the flow, and I love new experiences while painting. Let’s face it; I’m on the paint’s side.

One of my original ideas was the thing I call “variable perspective”. This involves the use of multiple perspectives in an image. The idea is to create a plurality of perspectives within an aggregate image. Yesterday I had an experience which I must say it was a real game changer and took this idea to a completely different level.


Being way out of practice, I started doing some dry brushwork. That took me right out of my familiar zonePaint job 10003 rework 1 into a completely new area. This is an era are actually do understand to some degree. I am a big admirer of some of the black-and-white ink artists and I can really appreciate what they can do with the combination of black ink and white paper, producing multiple images using both tones. They are incredibly productive and some of the imagery is absolutely fantastic. Wallace Wood is a case in point on the original MAD comics.

This experience left me with a few problems. On the one hand, I was confronted with my own work, which was a bit tactless of me. On the other hand, I was also confronted with an absolute dream of new shapes and new ideas. Hence the expression, “Unfamiliar”.

This set off a typical bit of artistic logic that very strange contraption which artists persist in describing as rational thought: What if there were no familiar shapes? What if everything you saw is something you’ve never seen before?


3D Acrylic

So the new idea is quite simple: Get rid of all familiar shapes, and see what happens. This idea is hardly full grown, and will need to evolve quite a bit, but there it is. I should point out that the new approach does involve a certain amount of hard work on the part of the viewer. It is not just one picture. It’s thousands of pictures. There is no structure. An overall structure, in fact, isn’t even required.

(A point in passing – I’m familiar with the plodding, uber-mediocre pseudo-artistic social theory of “outsider art”, “insider art”, and the rest of the ridiculous ritual of “who’s allowed to do art”, which has done so much to turn modern art into a sewer. My family is full of artists, I know the game, I despise the pecking orders, and I couldn’t possibly care less. Adherents to this trivial, irrelevant social structure are cordially advised to go to hell, preferably now.)

There is one common rule in any form of art: The idea is what’s important. Consider the idea of totally unfamiliar visual images. Consider combinations of visual elements and shapes and non-shapes that you’ve never seen before. That’s what “Unfamiliar” is about. I’ll be very interested to see where this idea goes.

LOGO with Sydney Media Jam edit 300PPI